In The Future of Digital Printing to 2024 , Smithers Pira forecasts a 250% increase in the value of the global digital printing over the next ten years. Here we explore the opportunities in production print for the channel and explain how non-specialists can make the transition.
One hundred and fifty trillion pages are produced worldwide today using production print technology, only 2% of which is printed
digitally [Smithers Pira 2012]. “So, yes, there is a growth opportunity,” said Kevin O’Donnell, Marketing Manager, Graphic Communications Operations Europe for Xerox. “But do remember that growing markets are also the most competitive.”
He added: “Resellers moving into the production print space will find both volume and specialist resellers, as well as manufacturers’ sales teams present. That said, traditional high-end office printing devices do share similar DNA to the lowerend production systems, so the technology can be familiar to resellers. Beware the need, though, for colour management, broader paper formats and types and new data stream management, as all these are highly relevant, as is an ability to provide production class finishing and fulfilment.”
Andrew Harris, European & UK Professional Print Marketing Manager, Canon UK & Europe, agrees that both the professional print and wide format markets represent a growth opportunity for its partners, due to growing digital volumes and new applications driven by digital print technology.
“Canon knows this, not only through its own experiences and the successes of its partners across Europe, but also through analysing independent research, which demonstrates the growth in digital print and the opportunity it represents for both the Print Service Provider (PSP) and the reseller/partner. For example, the InfoTrends Western European Digital Production Printing Application Forecast Report shows that digital print volumes will grow significantly between 2011 and 2016, driven by applications such as publishing and general promotional materials,” he said.
This argument is supported by Canon’s own Insight Report, Building Your Future with Print , which reveals that 67% of PSPs believe the biggest revenue growth in the next five years will be in digital colour. The report also highlights an increase in the number of print buyers using digital print applications (from 2012 to 2014).
Making the transition
“A decision to move into any new market shouldn’t be taken lightly,” warned O’Donnell. He said that prospective entrants should ask themselves if they have the skills, capability, coverage and focus not just to place three or four systems, but to build a profitable and sustainable business.
He said: “There is a different skill set required to break into and sustain in this market, so in my mind the opportunity should either be organic, building on existing skills and client relationships, or by partnering or acquiring a complementary business.”
According to Harris, the skill set question is one that can only be fully answered on a reseller by reseller basis, as some resellers may already possess the knowledge and skills to sell in this arena. “However the professional print market does differ from the office market and, of course, requires a detailed knowledge of not only the products and available solutions, but the customers’ needs and requirements,” he said.
He added: “When selling into Graphic Arts or CRD, it is imperative that the reseller understands their business needs and challenges, as well as the market trends and opportunities that will affect their print operations now and in the future.”
Given the complexity of the products involved, it is essential that vendors support their partners. Naturally, both Xerox and Canon continue to develop their capabilities in this area.
“Xerox’s partnering programmes provide a range of both training and ongoing support for businesses looking to enter the production print market,” said O’Donnell.
From Canon’s perspective, Harris said: “We have developed a professional print learning curriculum to support our partners in developing their skills and achieve success, focusing not only on products and solutions, but also helping them to understand the market space and their customer requirements.”
He added: “We also have a team of specialists available, from a dedicated professional print business development manager to a team of product, solutions and customer specialists. What is vital is that we also give our partners the tools to differentiate their approach and enable them to build long-term partnerships with their customers. Tools such as independently commissioned market insights, which cover the views of both buyers and print service providers, business analysis tools for Graphic Arts and CRD customers and business development programs are in place to help the PSP drive their print operation forward and embrace new opportunities.”